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Is a clinical striker really worth an extra 15 to 20 points?

As the season moves towards the finish and the summer transfer window nears, Millwall owner John Berylson spoke about their recruitment. The American said: “We need offence on this team. Just imagine if we averaged more than a goal a game, which we currently have done, with all those draws we have? That’s a potential 15 to 20 points that we’ve left on the ground. We’ll try and fix that.”

The table below compares the top, middle and bottom 8 teams in the Championship. Comparing the average of each group's average individual top scorers' goals and their cost.

Is he right in saying it is the difference by as much as “15 to 20 points”?

The table shows a greater difference between the top 8 teams and the 9-16th teams, than between the 9-16th and bottom 8 teams. 9-16th teams’ top scorers have averaged 3 goals more than the bottom 8 teams’ top scorers - but 7 goals less than the top 8 teams’ average. This pattern is followed when looking at transfer fees. The average cost of the top 8 teams’ strikers is 10 times larger than the average cost of the other 16 teams’ top scorers cost. What does this show? To break into the top 8, a clinical striker is required - less essential when moving away from the bottom 8 spots.

Of the five previous Championship golden boot winners, one was a free transfer (Pukki) & only Mitrovic had previously played in the Premier League. Three of the five (Gray, Wood and Vydra) received moves after their successful seasons - with their teams making significant profits.

Problem: strikers or lack of chances?

Millwall & Middlesbrough faced each other before the break, they are between the top 8 and bottom 8 teams. In the game, they recorded a combined xG of just 1.39. The only goal of the game came through a rather fortuitous own-goal. Only one player (Saville) had xG or xA over 0.4 - and he was a second half substitute. Whereas, free scoring and leaders Norwich had a xG of 2.22 (scored 1) - bigger than the sum of Millwall & Middlesbrough. Norwich had four players with an xG or xA over 0.4. What does this mean? Millwall’s cheaper attack exceeded their xG - unlike Norwich. Yet Norwich’s attack had a greater quantity of quality chances created for them. Which indicates that the problem can be the chance creation, rather than conversion. This season, Millwall have so far exceeded their expected points (based on xG) by 0.8 points and two places. However, in Millwall’s midweek defeat to QPR, Millwall recorded an xG of 2.29 (4th highest in the game week). Which shows that xG does not ensure success.

Millwall’s midfield has no players who are in the top 25% in two or more categories - ball retention, ball progression & defensive actions. Millwall have just two in any category, Woods in ball retention & Leonard in defensive actions. Whereas, Watford have three players in more than one of the categories - including Hughes who is in all three.

(via Henshaw analytics)

Why is it hard to sign a clinical striker?

The apparently ‘limited’ pool of clinical strikers is growing in price. During a time where club finances are hurt as result of the pandemic. Further issues come from the new rules as a result of Brexit.

Stats from InfoGol and article from Richard Cawley.

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